Bilingual and special education teachers are in demand at Elgin Area School District U-46.
The state's second-largest school district with more than 40,000 students is hosting a job fair 9 a.m. to noon Saturday. The district specifically is seeking English Language Learner-certified bilingual teachers for prekindergarten and kindergarten through 12th grades, as well as bilingual special education teachers.
The district has 34 open positions for teachers with ELL certification, and 27 open positions for bilingual special education teachers.
"Special education across the nation has always been a challenge," said Melanie Meidel, U-46 assistant superintendent of human resources. "When you put special ed and ELL together into one position ... those that have both are sought out by many districts."
Meidel said the district has 22 pending ELL teacher applicants it is reviewing. "We are hoping to whittle that down," she added.
U-46 also is anticipating waves of employee retirements -- estimated to be more than 300 employees -- between now and the 2016-2017 academic year. A total of 83 employees retired at the end of the last school year, including nine administrators and 42 teachers. The year before, the district saw about 142 retirements, Meidel said.
Officials have said those retirements provide an opportunity to hire more minorities to address the gap between the portion of minority students and minority teachers -- about 46 percentage points.
U-46's student population is 68 percent ethnic minorities.
New hires not only will fill vacancies created by retirements, but also support the district's growing dual language program, Meidel said.
The district has ramped up its dual language program to include fifth grade this coming school year. The program, started four years ago, serves prekindergarten through fourth-grade classrooms.
"Each year we add a grade," Meidel said. "Right now, the design is to go sixth, seventh, and then eighth (in subsequent years)."
With more school districts offering dual language programs, there is more competition for hiring teachers, she added.
U-46's fair will be held at the district's Educational Services Center, 355 E. Chicago St. Interested candidates will have an opportunity to meet with administrators.
Applicants should bring copies of their resume, credentials and other professional documentation. An online application must be submitted at u-46.org before the fair. Candidates can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.